We live in uncertain times and have plenty to be afraid of. Terrorism, economic collapse, unemployment, nuclear armament, identify theft… and that’s just the beginning.
Bowling Green State University has identified the “Top 10 Fears that Keep People from Getting What They Want in Life:”
1. fear of failing.
2. fear of success.
3. fear of being judged.
4. fear of emotional pain.
5. fear of embarrassment.
6. fear of being alone/abandoned.
7. fear of rejection.
8. fear of expressing our true feelings.
9. fear of intimacy.
10. fear of the unknown.1
Do you struggle with any (or all!) of these fears? If you can’t find one there, check out this list of the top ten phobias:
1. arachnophobia (the fear of spiders).
2. social phobia (the fear of being evaluated negatively in social situations).
3. aerophobia (the fear of flying).
4. agoraphobia (fear and avoidance of any place or situation where escape might be difficult or help unavailable in the event of developing sudden panic-like symptoms).
5. claustrophobia (the fear of being trapped in small confined spaces).
6. acrophobia (the fear of heights).
7. emetophobia (the fear of vomit or vomiting).
8. carcinophobia (the fear of cancer).
9. brontophobia (the fear of thunderstorms).
10. necrophobia (the fear of death or dead things).2
In addition to these, if you speak to a group of women, they would probably add these: outliving one’s spouse or not finding a mate; infertility, miscarriage or child health issues; not being able to protect one’s children; not having enough money to retire; marital infidelity and/or divorce; caring for aging parents. (I was tempted to add “wrinkles” to the list, but compared to the above, they didn’t seem so bad after all!)
With so much to be afraid of in our world, it’s hard not to worry.
But listen to Jesus. He tells us, “Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself” (Matthew 6:34). This seems easy for Him to say, but what about when tough times come, such as when this month’s mortgage payment is due and you have no money? In the midst of the fear, refocusing on Christ and realizing that He really does understand what we’re going through is not easy.
When fear begins to creep into our minds and drain our souls, we can easily lose focus on the One who gives courage. To regain focus and truly feel His love, we need to remind ourselves that He is the God of the angel armies and that Jehovah Jirah— which means “the Lord will provide” (Genesis 22:14)—cares for us. I have always been encouraged by the biblical names for God and their meanings. Here is a partial list. Meditate on each one and ask God to fill your heart with His grace and truth.
Elohim, “Mighty One” (Genesis 1, Psalm 68)
Adonai, “Sovereign, Ruler” (Psalm 6, Isaiah. 68)
Yahweh or Jehovah, “I Am Who I Am.” (Exodus 3:14)
El Shaddai, “God Almighty” (Genesis 17, Exodus 6)
El Elyon, “God Most High” (Genesis 14, Psalm 9)
El Olam, “Eternal God” (Genesis 21, Isaiah 40)
Jehovah Jireh, “the Lord provides” (Genesis 22)
Jehovah Sabbaoth, “Lord of Hosts” (Joshua 5, 1 Samuel 1)
Jehovah Raah, “Lord our Shepherd” (Psalm 23)3
I’m comforted as I read this list. In the face of fear and uncertainty, I know that the One who cares for me is God Almighty, the Most High, the Mighty One, the Lord of Hosts.
Imagine yourself in the wilderness with one change of clothes, no makeup, and no contact with the outside world—certainly not my typical idea of a women’s retreat. But for two extraordinary women, Gina Murrow and Donna Claus, the setting is perfect for helping rid women of fear. Having seen so many women live lives of fear and apprehension, the two decided to begin leading wilderness retreats for the sole purpose of helping women identify and relinquish their personal fear. The retreats are called No Fear Forwards.
What makes modern women want to stay on a glacier, flip kayaks in 34 degree water, stay in tents in the same woods as bears, and learn to shoot guns and use a map and compass? It may be the opportunity to get away from the drudgery of regular life for four days or the chance to challenge oneself. More likely, however, it’s the opportunity to fully face their fears and banish them once and for all.
Though physical activity is a big part of each Forward retreat, emotional activity is an essential element as well. During the retreat, each woman is placed on the “hot seat,” and the group focuses on her unique questions, dilemmas, and faith. Donna Claus leads this portion of the Forward, which is designed to help women identify why they are not living a full and trusting life in God. Claus relies heavily on the Holy Spirit for this. The results are incredible.
Says Murrow, “I’ve seen marriages saved, relationships with kids improved, careers changed, and whole attitudes about life drastically reversed….God always surprises us.” Claus echoes Murrow’s observations: “I have husbands stop me at church and tell me that their marriages are changed. I listen to kids and hear them say they have a different mom. That is what makes me want to go ahead with more. We are seeing lives changed!”
Before leading others to live fearlessly, Gina and Donna both had to overcome a host of their own fears. They did so (and continue to do so) by relying solely on God. Donna notes, “The major problem I see is that life is not about us. When we think that we are the reason for life, we live in fear. When we want everything our way, we live in fear. If women can go away from these Forwards with one idea, it should be that ‘Life is not about me.’ Only when we leave the lie behind can we live fearlessly with our God. God had to wrench that out of me. It was painful; it was horrendous. But once I realized that all that matters is God and His plan, I found the secret to fearlessness. The opposite of fear is faith.”
Gina and Donna are teaching women to choose to worship Jehovah Jireh when they lack something in their life, El Shaddai when their fear is too great to handle on their own, and Adonai when they are ready to surrender their own plan in order to focus on God’s plan.
Rely on faith in the face of fear. I’m not quite ready to do the wilderness trip, but I do know that fear strips us of power, and we need to increase our faith to win over our fears.
1. “The Top Ten Fears That Keep People from Getting What They Want in Life.” Available online at www.bgsu.edu/organizations/asc/Fears.pdf
2. “Top Ten Phobias List.” Available online at www.phobia-fear-release.com/top-ten-phobias.html.
3. List provided courtesy of Dr. Joseph Eby, pastor, Chatham Presbyterian Church, Chatham, Illinois.